By Brandon Spratt
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Empty stands at Sexton Arena
Saturday’s NCAA Division III 3rd Round game between St. John’s and St. Thomas will go on as scheduled in front of limited patrons, limited to essential staff and immediate family.
Fans that purchased tickets online (the game sold out as of Wednesday afternoon) will receive a full refund. The game will be available to stream online at www.gojohnnies.com.
The absence of fans comes as a result of an NCAA mandate issued on Wednesday, March 11. The NCAA announced that its upcoming Division I Tournament, colloquially known as March Madness, will take place with no fans in the stands.
NCAA President Mark Emmert issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
“The NCAA continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 in consultation with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel. Based on their advice and my discussions with the NCAA Board of Governors, I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance,” Emmert said.
Earlier Wednesday, the Ivy League announced the cancellation of all sports indefinitely, one day after the league announced the cancelation of its conference basketball tournaments.
“While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States,” Emmert said.
By Cullen Trobec
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Classes will go on—for now.
CSB/SJU will continue instruction as usual despite the accelerating COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, administrators said Wednesday. Constant monitoring of the outbreak in the United States is ongoing, and any decision to alter classes will be made based on recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
As a “preparedness exercise,” CSB/SJU asked Wednesday that all faculty hold at least one class session online between now and the end of the next school week. Faculty members are being told to prepare for a full transition to online instruction in the event that the outbreak forces the suspension of face-to-face instruction.
“We’ve been working with faculty to have them prepared if we were to go online. I met with all the department chairs yesterday, and we’re working with the deans,” said Richard Ice, CSB/SJU provost. Ice and others assured that regardless of classes being online or in-person, students’ education will not stop.
Dozens of colleges across the country have already suspended face-to-face instruction, most notably the University of Minnesota. The U is currently on spring break but plans to administer classes online through April 1. Other nearby state universities such as the University of Iowa and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have taken similar measures. They join the likes of UCLA, Harvard, Boston College, Ohio St. University and dozens of other schools that have transitioned online and discouraged large group gatherings.

For now, it seems that small private colleges in Minnesota are following the recommendations for the CDC and the MDH. In a Wednesday statement, the MDH said that “Minnesota currently does not have evidence of ongoing community transmission” and therefore is not recommending tele-learning or closures.

“Minnesota’s private colleges have been talking regularly with Minnesota Department of Health officials. This is not just our opportunity to learn from the Department of Health, but from each other,” said Kathryn Enke, CSB chief of staff said.

As of now, there is no indication of what specific factors would push CSB/SJU or the MDH to cancel face-to-face instruction.

“To use an analogy, it’s kind of like when I have to call a snow day,” Ice said. “People want to know how many inches, what’s the wind, what’s the temperature. I don’t have the answer. It’s a combination of things.”

At CSB/SJU it seems that no aspect of student life is going untouched. Soon after the announcement that faculty would be expected to prepare for online courses, it was also announced that fans will not be allowed to attend the Sweet 16 basketball playoff matchup between
St. John’s and the University of St. Thomas. The move drew the ire of students who had already purchased tickets across social media.

International programs have felt the sharpest impact. The Center for Global Education (CGE) announced Wednesday afternoon that the spring semester study abroad trip operating in Segovia, Spain will be suspended.

“There was a COVID-19 case at the university in Spain, an Italian student not one of our students, so we took the preemptive step of moving our classes online for two weeks,” said Kevin Clancy, director of the CGE. After consideration of warnings from the Spanish government, CGE decided to suspend the program altogether.

Students currently on the trip were scheduled return to the United States by March 18 to continue to take classes online in order to earn credit for the semester. However, on Wednesday evening President Trump declared that all travel  from Europe will be banned for the next 30 days. The ban excludes the United Kingdom, as well as U.S. nationals who have undergone a screening process. Precisely what that means remains unclear.

At the time of publication, it was unclear what actions will be taken regarding the students currently in Spain. Students in Segovia had already been taking classes online, a measure which was recently extended to April 14.

Kevin Clancy has also indicated that it is “more likely than not” that the embedded Japan program this summer will not take place. Japan is currently under a Level 2 travel advisory from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) with little indication that the pandemic will slow to levels that would not threaten the safety of students. Students participating in the program have only just begun a complimentary CD mod class, and are scheduled to be in Japan from May 12 to June 2.

Clancy said decisions regarding future programs will be largely contingent upon the CDC’s warnings.

“For any CDC warning level 3 country, we will not send any programs. If students are in a country that becomes a warning level 3 we will suspend the program and bring the students back home,” Clancy said.

Level 3 warnings advise against all non-essential travel within a country. China, Italy, South Korea, and Iran are currently under Level 3 warnings.
CSB junior Ashley Marek was already well into her independent semester abroad in Florence, Italy when she first started hearing reports of the novel coronavirus. The country quickly became a hotspot for infections in Europe, which prompted a Level 2 travel advisory warning from the CDC.

“There was talk of being sent home,” Marek said. “That’s when CGE reached out to me.”

Clancy and others at CGE kept in close contact with Marek, and encouraged her to return home when the CDC issued a Level 3 warning soon afterwards. The Level 3 warning was enough for Marek’s program provider to permanently suspend her trip. She has since returned home, and is roughly halfway through a 14-day self-imposed quarantine. The quarantine is to ensure that any potential infection is able to run its course with limited exposure to other people.

Marek said that there was very little action taken toward her and other returnees from Italy upon arriving in Italy.

“I packed my carry-on bag in case I was quarantined, so I had all my travel shampoos and toothpaste,” Marek said. “But coming back to the U.S. they didn’t do anything. Didn’t even check my temperature.”

Students and faculty are encouraged to remain vigilant and practice good hygiene, and those returning from level 3 countries are required to remain under quarantine. Health services at both CSB and SJU stand ready to respond.

“Our health center at St. Ben’s and the clinic at St. John’s are prepared for how they intake a student who shows potential symptoms,” Enke said.
“Our current plan is to handle each case on a case-by-case basis. It might be that a student is able to return home and self quarantine there.”

Until further recommendations from the CDC and MDH, CSB/SJU is likely to remain on edge.

“We are preparing. We’re going to do the best we can,” Ice said.